Sustainability branding: what it is and why it matters

Sustainability branding has recently been playing a crucial part in top branding trends and the modern approach towards corporate social responsibility (CSR). As the market is becoming dominated by a more environmentally sensitive millennial demographic, brands need to be up to the task of performing in a green way while providing sustainable products. Nowadays, this part of CSR is not only popular among entrepreneurs, but also closely monitored by their customers. The line between success and “greenwashing” is very thin, which makes the idea of having truly sustainable branding more complex and demanding. What is the key to victory here as a business? The answer is relatively simple.

Sustainable branding isn’t about bragging with empty statements. Its main principle is acting for positive impact over vocalizing promising statements. For a constantly growing human population that is much more aware of the environmental damage that has been caused by previous generations, sustainability seems to be the only option going forwards. Even though protecting the planet has become a priority for individuals, it’s necessary for companies to understand the consequences that future generations will have to live with. Thanks to the consumers’ growing interest in supporting sustainable practices, brands now have the possibility of focusing on moving to the “greener” side of the market. Still, that causes lots of ethical dilemmas in terms of commitment to sustainability.

What exactly does sustainability mean?

Sustainability branding is a relatively new concept in modern business perception. In practice, it usually means minimizing or completely eliminating carbon emissions, proposing solutions for environmental issues, as well as providing fair social and economical conditions in the company’s supply chain. A sustainable brand is focused not only on profit, but also on making an actual positive difference to the world and on consumer behavior. Companies should therefore aim for environmental improvement, yet the majority of them are currently incorporating a small fraction of those principles. Sadly, most of the solutions they implement seem to be just the tip of the sustainability iceberg.

Engage with a brand ambassador

Brand ambassadors have the ability to positively impact the world around us through our actions and choices. They can help promote sustainable living practices and support businesses that are working to make a difference.

There are many ways that brand ambassadors can help make a difference. For example, they can start by identifying more eco-friendly choices in our daily lives, such as reducing our energy and water usage, recycling and composting, and finding more sustainable transportation options like riding our bikes or taking public transit.

Additionally, brand ambassadors can support businesses that are working to make a difference in the world. This might mean choosing brands that prioritize sustainability, engaging with these companies on social media to show their support, or advocating for policies that promote a greener future.

It is clear that brand ambassadors have a unique opportunity to help shape the world in a more sustainable direction. Whether it’s making small changes in our daily lives or working with companies to promote eco-friendly practices, we can all make a difference by being brand ambassadors for sustainability.

Greenwashing — more dangerous than being passive?

Businesses tend to handle the matter of providing sustainable products by simply scratching the surface of the issue. Claims about fair trade and deep concerns regarding the future of the planet may work for a short while. More insightful customers, whose numbers are constantly growing, are less likely to trust a brand’s premises that are unsupported by any valid evidence. This kind of practice usually leads to greenwashing — giving customers’ false impressions of the brand being environmentally conscious, when in reality their actions don’t reflect that. As people become increasingly more aware of the insincerity of some businesses, they need to focus on real actions rather than creating catchy, new marketing statements. 

Telling sustainability and “sustainability” apart

One of the easiest ways to see if a brand offers green products is to check whether or not any kind of documentation is visible on their website or directly on products. The most common certifications to seek are Fair Trade, Global Recycled Standard, and GoodWeave. This means that any kind of goods, whether they produce or raw materials, were sourced in a respectful and transparent manner. Another important aspect is supporting and offering better conditions for often mistreated workers, largely from the southern hemisphere.

Sustainable business practices differ from one another and depend mainly on the type of company itself. For instance, when it comes to the fashion industry, understanding the real impact it has on the environment in the first place is crucial. Even though there is a strong focus on sustainability in this market, many companies are found to not be telling the truth to their customers. Public perception of a brand can easily be turned to their advantage. Conscious consumers should be able to recognize the fashion industry’s greenwashing, as well as to know the materials used for making clothes. Currently, more than half of all first-circuit items of clothing are made using a synthetic fiber called polyester. As this is mainly plastic, it takes more than 200 years to break down. What’s more, this material is not designed to last for a very long time, so it is a real threat to the environment because the majority of those clothes end up in landfill. Consequently, more and more brands are marketing natural fibers such as hemp and linen that fit more into the green movement. 

Customers’ approach to sustainability

Previous generations were not as deeply concerned about sustainability-oriented brands as today’s younger age groups. Climate change is one of the most crucial factors starting the discussion about the ecological issues that humankind is currently facing. What is important to remember is that there is often inconsistency between consumers’ attitudes and their buying behavior. On one hand, green brands are what today’s clientele is looking for. Real estate developers, for both affordable and luxury housing, understand that the future of housing is energy-efficient and sustainable. On the other hand, the idea of supporting solely sustainable businesses still seems to be a luxury for many. This makes it difficult for less wealthy parts of society to be included in conscious consumer communities, as usually, the prices of green products are much higher than for “standard” ones. The gap between what customers want and what they do in terms of eco-conscious purchasing can be slowly closed by businesses themselves. Green marketing is not the only tool that entrepreneurs should be using to achieve their sustainability goals. Customer expectations are set very high and this is why companies should prioritize pro-active changes, such as sourcing raw materials from fair trade suppliers, as well as re-using and upcycling what already has been produced. 

For the future generations

Sustainability efforts require taking visible and fair steps towards being environmentally-friendly. Businesses all around the world are using Earth’s natural resources while not usually paying close attention to the fact they are very limited. The amount of water necessary for textile production exceeds 90 billion cubic meters a year, which makes up 4% of all freshwater usage globally. Making a change is not simple for anyone, whether it’s a business or an individual. However, for the time being it is crucial especially for the most impactful companies to take very serious steps in their business operations. Doing so will certainly involve plenty of time, labor, and resources of the entrepreneurs. Still, the outcome of consumer loyalty and trust while caring about the future of the planet is definitely worth it in terms of a business being both more responsible and profitable.

Owner of Brainy Bees - https://www.brainybe.es/, a small, but sweet like honey, marketing agency based in Poland. She managed marketing activities (with a focus on social media and content marketing) for brands in 15+ countries. Insights are everywhere.